Environmental Groups call for Meeting, Transparency

Guest blogger Melinda Koslow, NWF Regional Wildlife Adaptation Campaign Manager

Although wonderful places, the cities of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Muskegon, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio, are not considered heavy centers of population. These are the cities picked by the International Joint Commission (IJC) as locations for public meetings regarding recommendations from a publicly-funded International Study addressing water losses of Lakes Michigan and Huron.

The recommendations of the study will inform the U.S.-Canadian commission on whether actions are needed to fix what is commonly known as the ‘St Clair River drain’—the ongoing loss of water from Lakes Huron and Michigan resulting from dredging and other human activities. The ‘drain’ discovery—made more than three years ago by independent researchers—has led to the IJC investigation.

Water losses could have huge ramifications for millions of people, communities, businesses and wildlife that depend on the lakes.

Next week people are getting a chance to learn about initial recommendations and display their opinion. The deadline for public comment is April 9, 2010.

Think they could be missing some possible input?

Like that of the largest population center on Lakes Michigan-Huron? There is no meeting location scheduled in the Chicago-Milwaukee-northwest Indiana corridor.

The question as to why this is the case was recently posed to study board spokesman John Nevin. His response? That a meeting in that region was not worthwhile since expected attendance numbers are low. This rationale is difficult to believe. At various meetings hosted last fall by the study board itself, prior to IJC involvement, attendance was so large as to almost be overwhelming.

The IJC is failing to keep things transparent by dismissing such a large population.

Now is the time for us to be involved. It might be a decade before funds, expertise, and time is available to address the issue again. By then the lakes could look significantly different.

Yesterday a number of environmental groups asked the IJC to host a meeting in the Chicago-Milwaukee-northwest Indiana corridor. These groups include the National Wildlife Federation, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Ducks Unlimited, Freshwater Future, and Great Lakes United, among others.

We have yet to hear back.

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